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Opening Night Playbill cover
|Productions||1999 Off Broadway
2002 West End
2003 U.S. tour
|Awards||Tony Award for Best Musical|
Contact is a musical "dance play" that was developed by Susan Stroman and John Weidman, with its "book" by Weidman and both choreography and direction by Stroman. It ran both off-Broadway and on Broadway in 1999–2002. It consists of three separate one-act dance plays.
Contact premiered at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, Lincoln Center, on September 9, 1999 (after 1999 workshop productions of parts of the show), then moved to Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, Lincoln Center, on March 30, 2000 and played for 1,010 performances there.
The show was received with critical acclaim and won the 2000 Tony Award for Best Musical (among others). The award was controversial because Contact contains no original music or live singing, and in response, a new award for Best Special Theatrical Event was introduced the following year.
Among regional productions, the musical was presented by the Virginia Stage Company (Norfolk, Virginia) in April 2006. This was the first regional theater in the US to present Contact after the Broadway, national tour and London productions and was directed by Tome Cousin, an original cast member (who was chosen by Stroman to direct).
The musical was produced by Mupa Budapest at the Madách Theatre in Budapest, Hungary in 2009, with choreography by Tome Cousin, and featured leading ballet dancers of the Hungarian State Opera and members of KFKI Chamber Ballet.
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The idea that Contact was initially developed, researched, and written by Mike Ockrent's (Stroman's husband) development executive and assistants during his brief production deal at Warner Bros, is more than likely untrue. According to Playbill in a 1999 article, the musical was inspired by an experience that Stroman had "... when she visited a dance club in the Meat Market district. There she witnessed a fascinating woman in a yellow dress who took turns dancing with different partners throughout the night. Watching from the sidelines, Stroman thought, 'she's going to change someone's life tonight' ." 
Robin Pogrebin, in The New York Times in 1999 wrote of Stroman visiting a swing club and noticing a dancer in a yellow dress. "The woman would step up to the dance floor as a song was beginning and nod or shake her head at the various men asking to be her partner. Then, after holding everyone's attention with her nervy grace, she would disappear into the crowd. What came out of this was Contact... "
The same origin was related in an article in The New Yorker, written by John Lahr in 2014: “ 'Into this sea of dark fashion stepped a girl in a yellow dress,' Stroman recalled. 'You couldn’t help but notice her: it was a very bold color to wear at night—lemon yellow—the same color you find on a traffic light. When she wanted to dance, she would step away from the bar and some man would ask her to dance.'"
Structure, music and story
Contact is made up of three separate dance pieces, each set to pre-recorded music, including from Tchaikovsky, Stephane Grappelli, the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Royal Crown Revue, and The Beach Boys. In each story, the central character expresses a longing to make a romantic connection.
All three stories concern "contact", or its lack.
- Part One - "Swinging"
- "Swinging", set in an 18th-century French forest clearing, can be described as a contact improvisation on Fragonard's The Swing a print of which is displayed on an easel when the audience arrives. Sex and concealed identity are involved in this piece of amoral intrigue - a servant and his master each seeks the young lady's affection. Much of the action takes place on a moving swing.
- Part Two - "Did You Move?"
- "Did You Move?", set in circa 1954 in Queens, New York, takes place in an Italian restaurant, focusing on the empty marriage of a small-time gangster and his wife. The wife has extensive dance sequences as she fantasizes about escaping her verbally abusive spouse, but each time is returned rudely to reality. Set to recorded orchestral music of Tchaikovsky and Grieg.
- Part Three - "Contact"
- "Contact" is set in contemporary time, and explores the emptiness of the career-driven lives of Manhattan apartment dwellers. A lonely advertising executive on the brink of suicide is somehow transported to a bar, where he encounters a stunning woman in a yellow dress. To win her and take control of his life, he must gain the confidence to make contact with another human being. It helped to create a surge of interest in acrobatic and rock and roll swing dancing.
Original Broadway cast and replacements
West End cast
Ben Brantley, in his review in The New York Times of the production at the Newhouse, wrote: "...Stroman... aided by the dramatist John Weidman and a dream ensemble of dancing actors and acting dancers, has created the unthinkable: a new musical throbbing with wit, sex appeal and a perfectionist's polish. Brimming with a sophistication that is untainted by the usual fin-de-siecle cynicism, Contact restores the pleasure principle to the American musical. It's the kinetic equivalent of Rodgers and Hart."
Awards and nominations
In addition to winning Best Musical and Best Choreography, Karen Ziemba (in Part Two) and Boyd Gaines (in Part Three), won 2000 Tony Awards for Best Featured Actress and Best Featured Actor in a Musical, respectively. The show also won Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding New Musical, Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical (Ziemba), Outstanding Choreography and Outstanding Lighting Design.
- McGrath, Sean "Stroman & Weidman to Contact Lincoln Center; Previews Sept. 9, Opens Oct. 7" Playbill, May 25, 1999
- "'Contact' on Broadway, Production and Awards" playbillvault.com, accessed October 17, 2015
- See, for example: Curtain Up review
- Hofler, Robert. "Legit lightning strikes twice". Variety.com, May 1, 2006, accessed April 27, 2011
- Gans, Andrew. "London to Make Contact Oct. 23 at Queens Theatre". Playbill.com, October 23, 2002, accessed April 12, 2014.
- Simonson, Robert. "Next Leg of Leggy 'Contact' Tour Starts Nov. 5 in Toronto, Continues to April 2003" Playbill, July 16, 2002
- Simonson, Robert. "Sept. 1' Contact' Broadcast to Be "Live from Lincoln Center". Playbill.com, July 29, 2002, accessed April 12, 2014
- Nicholson, David. "A Stretch For Actors And Dancers" Daily Press, April 7, 2006
- Gans, Andrew. "Making Contact: North Shore Presents Stroman-Weidman Musical Beginning June 10" Playbill, June 2, 2008
- "'Contact'" mupa.hu, accessed October 18, 2015
- Simonson, Robert. "Stroman and Weidman Make Contact at Lincoln Center Theater, Oct. 7" Playbill, October 7, 1999
- Pogrebin, Robin. "Making 'Contact' Without Conflict; How a Hit Dance Play Evolved, Cordially" The New York Times, October 18, 1999
- Lahr, John. "Joy Ride" The New Yorker, March 31, 2014 Issue
- Contact Synopsis geocities.com. Retrieved January 8, 2010.
- Suskin, Steven. "Contact", Broadway Yearbook, 1999-2000 : A Relevant and Irreverent Record, Oxford University Press, 2001, SBN 0195349970, pp.202, 204-207
- Review curtainup.com
- Contact listing amazon.com. Retrieved January 8, 2009.
- "'Contact' Songs" ibdb.com, accessed October 17, 2015
- " 'Contact' Broadway" ibdb.com, accessed October 17, 2015
- " 'Contact' Replacements" ibdb.com, accessed October 17, 2015
- Brantley, Ben. "Theater review. Musical Elixir Afoot" New York Times, October 8, 1999